A friend recently mentioned she’s noticed the personal toll of life during the COVID-19 crisis as Zoom call-mates share their personal isolation struggles. She’s identified three stages of reactions:
Stage 1. “What the f**k?”
Stage 2. “This is a nice break.”
And now, Stage 3. “OMG, we’re stuck in here.”
As this long period of communal stress wears on, we’re all feeling out of sorts, whether fearful, anxious, frustrated, angry, powerless, claustrophobic . . . or all of the above. Oy.
Let’s take a breath and get some advice from the experts–self-compassion expert Kristin Neff and the Beatles.
Yes, the Beatles.
Their message? Get ready for it . . .
All we need is love
Yes Yes. It sounds trite. But hear me out.
No fewer than twenty-five hundred studies link self-compassion to increased well-being and resilience when faced with life stressors.
Paradoxically, self-compassion also helps us be less self-focused and more giving toward others–even loved ones who may be driving us nuts as we shelter in place together.
Specifically . . .
Science confirms a strong physiological basis behind our need for social bonding. Bottom line, we’re social creatures, with an innate capacity–and drive–to care about ourselves and others.
Secondly, we can’t eliminate unpleasant emotions. In fact, studies indicate, the more we resist them, the more they persist. Ugh. The only way out is through.
And finally, Kristin Neff says compassion = our ability to hold pain with love. Pretty different mindset from “suck it up buttercup”, or believing kindness makes you weak.
So maybe, to give our best to others during this crisis, our most important task is being with ourselves in a kind, loving and supportive way.
Yeah I know. Not what you may have expected.
Making it a habit.
For the past couple of years I’ve experimented personally, and with the leaders and teams I support, with ways to make kindness to themselves an in-the-moment habit.
Tips we’ve seen work . . .
Tip #1. Cue into when you’re suffering, because that’s when self-compassion makes the biggest difference.
For me it started with identifying the signals of not-so-pleasant emotions . . . be it anger, critical, hurt because I was taking things personally. And sometimes my behaviours were the red flags (distracted Googling, Netflix bingeing, or reaching for yet another cookie).
For others it’s noticing when they fall into self-criticism . . . saying those things to themselves they’d never say to a friend (i.e. “Of course that date failed. You’re ugly, and fat, and really boring.” Could you imagine saying that to anybody but yourself? Me neither).
Tip #2. Be the good friend or parent you’d like to be–to yourself.
Maybe it’s putting a hand over your heart. Or curling up in a fetal position under a pile of blankets. Or just recognising this is a moment of suffering, part of the human experience, and your pain is valid.
Tip #3. Share the love.
This is a weird time in human history. Everyone is struggling.
While you care for yourself, you’ll likely notice you have greater capacity to care for others and embrace Compassionate Leadership. Makes sense since compassion for others is a positive experience that increases your fulfillment and builds your resilience and resistance to burnout.
A hopeful new stage.
No. Sorry. Love won’t make pain disappear.
But compassion for yourself and others can help you handle the inevitable stress of life during COVID-19 with more grace and ease.
And really, who knows?
Maybe that will lead us to a fourth stage–finding acceptance, hope and meaning in this crisis.
Especially for Leaders & Teams in Seniors Care.
You are inspiring and so appreciated. For Seniors Care leaders and teams on the front lines, your COVID-19 reality may well hinge on fear–for your own well-being, of bringing the virus home to your family, for your staff and residents’ health–and grief, seeing people you know suffer or even die.
And leaders tell me they worry about the long-term impact of COVID-19 on their own and their staff’s mental well-being.
Self-compassion won’t remove the momentous stress you’re under during COVID-19.